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Current and Future Trends in Smartphones

Cool new phone features and future tech

For 2020, this year’s range of top smartphones are foldable, run faster, have better cameras and battery life, and hefty price tags to match. This overview will give you some solid information on emerging technology to look for when selecting your next phone. There are also a couple of predictions of what will be coming in the future.

Foldable screen phones
One of my biggest complaints as phone technology improves is that they get bigger and bigger. Forget slipping one conveniently in a pocket. So the latest craze of foldable phones is intriguing, including the Samsung Galaxy Z-flip. It has a large 6.7-inch screen display, but then folds in half for storage like the ancient flip phones of just a few years ago.

But there are durability concerns with foldable phones. Case in point—the launch of the Galaxy Fold and the Huawei Mate X were both delayed as manufacturers worked to ensure these new devices could withstand rigorous daily use. The Galaxy Z-flip tries to address this with a thin glass screen, but it likely is not as durable as other high-end phones that have thicker glass displays.

One cool feature of a phone like the Z-flip is that it can be folded at different angles and used to take pictures without a tripod. Samsung’s camera app intuitively sets the top of the screen as a monitor, with controls on the horizontal bottom half. This is great for photo enthusiasts who want to experiment with long exposure shots, but otherwise, the usefulness may be lost on most people.

As with any new technology, early adopters will be the test subjects of whether the folding mechanisms will hold up or if grit gets caught in between. Plus, when any of the models fold down, it makes a big fat square that is still pretty bulky. Great idea, but the execution may be a bit off. And at $1380, you may find advanced features in a non-folding phone at a more attractive price point.

Time-of-flight cameras
The irony of Time-of-flight cameras, or ToF, is that the technology has been around since the 70s. The sensor that aids the camera is just now being widely used enough to bring the cost down to incorporate into smartphones. The advantages are quite an improvement over previous cameras.

Basically, ToF cameras map out the surroundings creating a basic three-dimensional representation of what is in front of them. With higher depth resolution, ToF cameras can better differentiate between objects that are close and far away. Photographers have better control of depth of field, such as determining how blurry an object in the background is. And with on-board automatic settings, you don’t have to be a professional to get amazing results.

Several companies are introducing ToF cameras, including Samsung in the Galaxy S20. More about this phone and its amazing camera in the next section. Just prepare yourself for sticker shock for this and other top of the line phones. The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra started pre-sales February 21, 2020 at $1,400. That’s more than my recent laptop purchase. Ouch!

Smart phone on a wireless charger

Why the scam is effective
In addition to using a familiar number, scammers use high pressure tactics to get their targets to wire money immediately.

“This is the next level,” said FBI Special Agent Doug Kasper. “This is a high pressure call that has instant impact. The ability to spoof phone numbers is what makes it so instantly scary.”

Scammers rapidly dial dozens of potential victims in one day hoping for one or more to take the bait. A very short period of time to pay up is given, so the target is unaware there is no kidnap victim. The time pressure leaves little time to verify a story.

Kasper said the FBI works domestically to shut down networks and their money launderers, but overseas phone and social networking schemes operated by criminal networks is evolving at a rapid pace. He said the key to curbing the scam, is consumer awareness.

Upgraded Cameras
Most significant smartphone upgrades happen because of consumer demand for better cameras. Manufacturers have focused much attention to improving photography in recent years, but this year is exceptional.

The newly launched Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra has a cluster of lenses on the back, including a whopping 108MP wide-angle camera, a 48MP telephoto camera, 12MP ultra-wide camera and a ToF sensor. Considering other main cell phone cameras have 12 megapixels, this new Samsung is, well in another galaxy all together. Details include 10x Hybrid Optic Zoom and up to 100x Super Resolution Zoom 3. Want to snap a legible pic of a license plate a block away? Just zoom in. Plus there is a 40 megapixel selfie camera on the front.

For video, this powerhouse can shoot in 8K and has a cool video snap feature. Take a short video and you can pull out 33MP stills from each frame.

Single Take is like burst mode on steroids. Shoot for up to 10 seconds and Single take will deliver images back in a variety of settings you can choose from without having to retake the photo.

There is also a vastly larger sensor for low light shooting, improvements to time lapse, image stabilization and photo sharing.

The two lower tiers of the Galaxy S20 are no slouches either, with three back cameras, 3x Hybrid Optic Zoom and up to 30x Super Resolution Zoom3. However, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is setting a new bar for all other smartphone cameras.

In comparison, Apple’s current 11 Pro and Pro Max, released late in 2019, have a triple-lens module at the top left in the back that includes a standard 12-megapixel wide-angle lens, a 12-megapixel telephoto lens, and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle lens. Apple’s portrait mode is improved with advanced depth control and bokeh, blurring out of focus images in the background. A new night mode performs admirably in low light situations. The front camera has a 12-megapixel lens for selfies.

It’s hard to imagine Apple’s next iPhone will have enough camera improvements to snag the top spot away from Samsung. But with the next iPhone launch due fall of 2020, added camera features such as ToF, a new FaceID sensor and 3D imaging will certainly turn up the competitive heat.

Battery life
As smartphones continue to get packed with features, manufacturers are keeping up the pace with longer battery endurance. There are numerous models boasting all-day battery life. Top of the line iPhone Pro Max tests out at just under 12 hours, while the flagship from China, Huawei P30 Pro comes in 7 minutes shy of 13 hours.

Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra hadn’t been field tested at the time of this writing, but it boasts a bigger battery (5,000 mAh) than its predecessor the Galaxy S10 5G (4,500 mAh), which field tested at 12 hours 35 minutes, according to Tom’s Guide. The S20’s battery also includes new technology allowing more power in a smaller footprint. Expect to see this technology applied to other new releases in the future.

Operating like a laptop
Tech gurus predict we’ll use one portable device in the future, and it does seem like small laptops and smartphones are converging. Top makers have stable operating systems and lightning fast processors. For example, the S20 Ultra’s specs rival those of laptops, which is good and bad.

The phone features up to 16GB of RAM, a 7nm chipset, up to 512GB of internal storage, and a micro SD slot to expand data storage up to 1 terabyte. With a size of nearly 7 inches and a bump out camera, it’s bulky. The price tag at $1400 rivals a quality small laptop.

On the horizon

Eco power
The world is looking toward more eco-friendly products, and cell phone manufacturers are no exception. Kyocera revealed a solar powered prototype at the Mobile World Congress back in 2016. While we are yet to see a commercially available model, it is realistic to expect solar to be incorporated in our phones in the future, while others are looking at making devices out of biodegradable materials.

Phones as a virtual assistant
Back in 2011, a phone called the Modai was developed that was intended to be your best friend. This companion device was inspired by human behaviors and designed to learn and help users bond with it. While it never was produced commercially, today’s environment is ripe for such a device.

AI assistant applications like Siri or Alexa are integrating into our phones. It’s not a stretch to imagine that the assistants will evolve to learn more about our likes and dislikes, and become more proactive in helping to manage our lives, celebrate with us, listen to our problems and offer solutions. The phone of the future may become our bpf- best phone forever, or at least until the next new release.

Clearly the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra can be held up as the trend of things to come. As much as I would love to own a phone with such features, especially the cameras, I am still uncertain about the bulky size and hefty price tag. However, we can look at the Galaxy S20 Ultra, along with other aspects of technology such as AI, to predict what may be coming next, hopefully in a smaller and more modestly priced package. Or maybe just a hologram of an actual device!

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